Back to Bucharest: The Pro Circuit comes to the Romanian capital for the third time in its history for the first Minor of 2019.
The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season appears to be hitting its stride in earnest now, as the 2018 section of the schedule comes to a close and we prepare to welcome in the new year with some action on the Pro Circuit stage. The first event of the new calendar year will see the Pro Circuit return to a familiar location, as the Romanian capital of Bucharest will play host to the eponymous Bucharest Minor, which is set to run from the 9th of January through the 13th. Organized by the partnership of PGL and ImbaTV (the same duo of studios that organized The Kuala Lumpur Major in November), the Minor will be the third Pro Circuit event to be held in the city and will bring 8 squads to the PGL Studios for the chance to lay claim to the title of Minor Champion. In addition to taking that coveted title, the team that stands victorious at the end of The Bucharest Minor will also earn the 16th and final slot at the upcoming Chongqing Major, giving the squad a valuable opportunity to further increase its Pro Circuit Point total. Speaking of Pro Circuit Points, there will be more than a handful up for grabs in the Romanian capital as well. The Bucharest Minor will feature the standard pool of 500 Pro Circuit Points, in addition to a prize pool of $300,000 USD, both of which will be distributed among the participants as listed below.
1st: $125,000 & 120 DPC Points (Advances to The Chongqing Major)
2nd: $70,000 & 100 DPC Points
3rd: $35,000 & 90 DPC Points
4th: $25,000 & 70 DPC Points
5th-6th: $15,000 (Per Team) & 40 DPC Points (Per Team)
7th-8th: $7,500 (Per Team) & 20 DPC Points (Per Team)
The Bucharest Minor will begin with a Group Stage that will see the 8 participating teams split into 2 GSL style groups, with a Bo3 format for all Group Stage series. The GSL format means that 2 of the 4 teams in a group will be selected to play each other in the 2 Opening Matches. The winning teams from those Opening Matches will then play each other in the Winners’ Match to determine the top seed in the group, while the losing teams will play in the Losers’ Match to determine the bottom seed. From there, the loser of the Winners’ Match and the winner of the Losers’ Match will play each other in the Decider Match to determine the 2nd and 3rd seeds of the group. As was the case in the previous Pro Circuit events, the Group Stage will be played for seeding purposes only and will not directly eliminate any teams from the event. Instead, the Group Stage will advance every participant to the Playoffs of the Minor, with the top 2 teams from each group going directly to the Upper Bracket while the bottom squads from the group standings will begin in the Lower Bracket. Said Playoff Stage will feature a double elimination bracket, with all series up until the Finals being played in a Bo3 format, while the Finals themselves will feature a Bo5 format.
With just 2 events in the books in this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, the results of The Bucharest Minor represent an incredibly valuable opportunity for these teams to carve out a place for themselves in the Pro Circuit Rankings. Every squad that participates in the Minor will be receiving some amount of Pro Circuit Points for their efforts, which means that all of the competing squads will be represented in the Rankings after the conclusion of the event, if they weren’t already. Of the 8 teams in the field for The Bucharest Minor, 2 of them (Ninjas in Pyjamas and Gambit Esports) currently hold positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings while the rest (OG, TEAM TEAM, Playmakers Esports, BOOM ID, Keen Gaming, and EHOME) are un-ranked at 0 Pro Circuit Points. Just where those squads end up falling in the Pro Circuit Rankings will depend upon their performance at the Minor itself, which leads us right into our overview of how each of the 8 teams in the field for the Bucharest Minor stack up heading into the first Pro Circuit event of 2019.
Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data. Although the new Pro Circuit system will award Pro Circuit Points to all participating teams, the projections here will still include the “Top 4” section for the sake of simplicity and consistency with last season’s posts.
Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
2. Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
3. Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
4. Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
5. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein (Captain)
C. Cristian “ppasarel” Bănăseanu (Coach)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Note: Since the original posting of this preview, OG announced that Pajkatt would no longer be a part of the team’s roster. That change is not reflected in the following section regarding the team.
With the single greatest achievement in the Dota 2 world already under its belt, OG appeared to be in a strongest possible position as it prepared for the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. As the reigning TI8 Champion, the European squad stood a step above its rivals on the international level, but that advantage has faded to a certain extent as the team readies itself for its first Pro Circuit event appearance of the new season. The team took some time off from the Pro Circuit at the front end of the season, skipping the first round of qualifiers as well as the initial Major/Minor pair. During that time, the squad also underwent a change to its roster, as Carry Anathan “ana” Pham shifted to a substitute role while veteran player Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille was brought in as a replacement towards the end of November. While 4/5th of the lineup that won TI8 is still intact for OG, the team’s extended offseason break combined with its recent roster change means that there may be some rust to shake off for the squad as it makes its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season. As the team makes its way to Bucharest, it will be hoping to prove to the Dota 2 world that this is not the case with a strong showing on the international stage and a run at the title of Minor Champion.
As previously mentioned, this appearance at The Bucharest Minor will be the first we see of OG on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team has not been particularly active this season. The squad’s first official matches of the 2018-2019 campaign did not come until the end of November with The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier, in which the squad put together a 5th-6th place performance. A few days later in qualifier for this very Minor, the team was able to bounce back with a much more impressive showing to finish 1st in the 6 team field and claim its place at the event. As a whole, OG has put together a 11-5 record against other European teams so far this season, which is a relatively impressive feat despite the limited number of matches played. While that pair of Pro Circuit qualifiers constitutes the majority of the team’s experience so far this season, they are not the only events that OG has participated in. The team stepped away from its home region and away from the Pro Circuit entirely in recent days, with OG having participated in the AMD Dota 2 Pro Series 2018 at the beginning of December. The Australian organized event brought together a group of SEA and Chinese squads to challenge the TI8 winner, with OG managing to finish 3rd overall with a 3-4 record. Of course, the team ended up playing without 3 of its usual roster members over the event, which adds something of a caveat to its overall performance. Between a limited number of matches within its home region and some extenuating circumstances muddying the waters in terms of its play on the international levels, OG still has quite a few questions that need answering heading into the Minor.
OG may be making its way to Bucharest with a new look and a relatively short list of appearances this season, but the squad still holds all of the prestige and expectations of a TI Champion as it prepares for its first Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 campaign. The loss of ana is certainly an unfortunate development for the team, but adding a veteran talent like Pajkatt to its lineup goes a long way towards mitigating any potential concerns for the squad. OG is still only a few months removed from its successful TI8 run, and with 4 of those 5 players that claimed the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver still on the roster, there’s little reason to believe that OG cannot continue to stand as an elite squad within the Dota 2 world. In all honesty, the biggest potential issue for OG is not any sort of lack of talent or experience in terms of its lineup. The most prominent concern for the squad heading into this Minor is whether it can shake off any potential rust from its extended off-season break and shift back into the style of play that earned it its victory at TI8. We’ve seen many TI winning squads get off to somewhat slower starts in the past, and there is no guarantee that OG will simply be able to snap back into winning form at the drop of a hat. That being said, the team’s performance in its limited appearances over the last few months have all been fairly encouraging, and the lack of international experience on the part of many of the other squads in this field gives OG another possible advantage to work with. With that in mind, the squad appears to be sitting rather comfortably in a favorable position heading into the event, and I would project OG to finish inside of the Top 4 in this Minor. Whether the squad will be able to claim the title of Minor Champion and earn a place at The Chongqing Major is still up for debate, but there are few teams in the field that could be reasonably expected to defeat OG in a head to head match up right now.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Qualification: Europe Qualifier 2nd Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (1350 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2. Adrian “Fata” Trinks
3. Neta “33” Shapira
4. Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
5. Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
The return of the Ninjas of Pyjamas organization to the Dota 2 scene has been a rather impressive one so far this season, as the squad has emerged as a leading team in the European region and a formidable force on the Pro Circuit as well. With a roster brimming with veteran experience and international talent, NiP has already found success on the Pro Circuit stage earlier this season, and will be making its second event appearance of the 2018-2019 campaign at The Bucharest Minor in January. Of course, the fact that the team’s second Pro Circuit event of the season will be a Minor instead of another Major stems from a somewhat weaker performance for the squad in its regional qualifier. That small setback has raised a few questions for the squad, but a strong showing in the Romanian capital and another impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage will most likely dispel any lingering doubts surrounding the team as it looks to claim its first Minor Championship title and earn a place at The Chongqing Major the long way around.
The last time Ninjas in Pyjamas was seen on the Pro Circuit stage was around 2 months ago at The Kuala Lumpur Major, where the European squad earned itself a 4th place finish in its first Pro Circuit event of the season. Since that event, NiP has been enjoying the benefits of its status as one of the top ranked squads on the Pro Circuit, and has been somewhat less active of late compared to some of the other squads in the field for this Minor. Near the end of November, the squad participated in the mixed Europe and CIS MegaFon Winter Clash Closed Qualifier, where it put together a 2-3 record before withdrawing from the event to finish in the 5th-6th place position. Just a few days later, the squad competed in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier, where it suffered a somewhat dramatic setback that saw it finish 2-4 in the Group Stage of the event to finish in the 7th-8th place position in a 8 team field. The team was able to bounce back from that disappointing performance in its most recent regional appearance though, as NiP posted a 8-2 record in the qualifier for this Minor to earn itself a 2nd place finish and a place in Bucharest. In the time since its appearance at The Kuala Lumpur Major, Ninjas in Pyjamas has put together a 12-9 overall record, with 16 of its 21 total matches having been played against other European squads. Those numbers certainly aren’t awe-inspiring in their own right, but combined with the squad’s previous regional dominance and its established success on the international level earlier this season, it’s enough to instill a fair bit of confidence in this NiP squad as it prepares for its run at the Minor.
As 1 of just 2 teams in the field for this Minor to have previously attended a Pro Circuit event this season, Ninjas in Pyjamas appears to be in a favorable position as it makes its way to Bucharest. We’ve seen this squad find success on the international level just a few months ago, and against a caliber of opponent that is at least 1 or 2 steps above what the squad is likely to see in this Minor. For all of NiP’s success though, the team doesn’t come into this event without a few concerns in terms of its recent level of play. As previously mentioned, the team has put together a 12-9 overall record in the time since its appearance at The Kuala Lumpur Major. There’s nothing particularly bad about that record, but it does reveal a small degree of inconsistency that hasn’t been fully laid to rest just yet. However, the high levels of talent and experience on the team’s roster makes it easy to give NiP the benefit of the doubt in terms of its ability to turn its recent struggles around and put together a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage. Those confidence levels are further increased when one takes into account the fact that many of the other teams in the field for this Minor are fairly lacking in terms of their experience on the international level. Between the inexperience of its opponents, the team’s own previous success on the Pro Circuit, and the caliber of the players on its roster, NiP appears to be a favorite to claim success in Bucharest. With that said, the squad is projected to finish in the Top 4 at The Bucharest Minor, as the squad looks to claim its first Pro Circuit title in its history and earn that final spot at The Chongqing Major.
Region: North America
Qualification: North America Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson
2. Eric “Ryoya” Dong
3. Braxton “Brax” Paulson
4. Jason “Newsham” Newsham
5. Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
The North American region has presented us with a rather startling dichotomy so far this season. At the top, squads like Evil Geniuses, Forward Gaming, and J.Storm have been able to perform with relative consistency, but beyond that group the region has been anything but stable. Tier 2 squads like ROOONS and compLexity Gaming have either undergone dramatic roster changes or disbanded altogether so far this season, but TEAM TEAM hopes to buck that trend as it prepares for its debut on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest. With a group of North American veterans with previous international experience on the roster, TEAM TEAM will be looking to prove itself against a formidable field of opponents at The Bucharest Minor.
As previously mentioned, TEAM TEAM will be making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor, though the team has already been fairly active within its home region so far this season. TEAM TEAM has participated in 9 total events and qualifiers in its 2018-2019 campaign, with 3 of them being open qualifiers in which the squad secured 2 1st place finishes along with a 3rd-4th place performance as well. Across its 6 other regional appearances, TEAM TEAM has put together a relatively impressive series of showings too. The team has earned 4 Top 4 finishes so far, with its strongest runs coming in a pair of 1st place finishes in both The Bucharest Minor North America Qualifier and the WESG 2018 USA Finals. In addition to those events that the squad has already participated in, TEAM TEAM is set to play in Season 2 of the North American Dota Challengers League, which will begin its Regular Season matches in the time between now and the beginning of the Minor in January. As a whole this season, the squad’s record against its regional rivals is a somewhat unimpressive 19-20 (not including open qualifier matches), which introduces a few concerns for the squad heading into the Minor. Adding on to those issues is the fact that TEAM TEAM has no experience outside of its home region so far this season, with The Bucharest Minor being the squad’s first foray onto the international level as a team. All of that paints a somewhat dismal picture for TEAM TEAM heading into the Minor, but hopes are still relatively high that the squad’s experience and relative consistency at home will help fuel a successful run on the Pro Circuit stage.
TEAM TEAM comes into The Bucharest Minor looking to put an end to a recent trend of instability within the Tier 2 scene in North America. The previous 2 Minor attendees from the region, ROONS and compLexity Gaming, have either disbanded or undergone dramatic roster shifts, but TEAM TEAM is hoping to carry on a certain degree of consistency in terms of both its roster and its level of play on the Pro Circuit stage. As of right now, the team certainly doesn’t appear to be an early favorite in the field for this Minor, as the squad has managed only middling results within its home region and has yet to accrue any experience on the international level as a roster. None of those factors are particularly conducive to success on the Pro Circuit stage, but TEAM TEAM does have one small advantage that some of its opponents at this Minor may be lacking. TEAM TEAM as a unit may not have experience on the international level, but the individual players on the roster certainly do, with the trio of Ryoya, Brax, and ixmike88 combining for 2 Minor appearances, 1 Major appearances, and 4 TI runs between them. Of course, the players themselves are now a handful of years removed from the majority of those appearances, but the ability to remain composed and calm on the international level is a valuable asset that should not be dismissed or undervalued. Is that experience enough to instill a sense of confidence in TEAM TEAM’s chances of claiming the title of Minor Champion though? The shortest and easiest answer to give to that question is no, and without any track record from this squad in terms of its strength on the international level, that answer doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. However, the possibility for success is always there, and TEAM TEAM’s veteran players and younger talent at least appear to be enough to keep the squad out of the bottom section of the event standings. TEAM TEAM comes into The Bucharest Minor with a projection in the 5th-6th place range, but this team will likely be the one whose final position is the most dependent on early momentum. If the squad gets off to a strong start, then the possibility exists for TEAM TEAM to move up in the standings, but by the same token the squad will be unlikely to recover from a slow start and could easily fall to the bottom of the standings in Bucharest.
Region: South America
Qualification: South America Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Alonso “Kotarō Hayama” León
2. Eliseo “Faker” Arancibia
3. Jose “Sword” Andree Nicosia
4. Steven “StingeR” Vargas
5. Christian “Accel” Cruz
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
Peruvian squad Playmakers Esports has had quite an interesting 2018-2019 campaign so far, as the team prepares to make its Pro Circuit debut at The Bucharest Minor. The majority of the team’s roster began the season under the name Braxstone, before officially forming the Plamakers Esports organization at the beginning of November. By the end of the month though, the squad was already finding itself dealing with roster changes, as the departure of two of its former players paved the way for the addition of Midlaner Eliseo “Faker” Arancibia and Offlaner Jose “Sword” Andree Nicosia. With those changes out of the way though, the squad appears to be finding its footing within the South American region, and now looks to extend its reach to the international level as well with this first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. Though the field for this second Minor of the season appears to be a relatively formidable one, a solid showing on the international level would serve as a significant turning point in Playmakers Esports’ season.
Playmakers Esports will be making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor, but the squad has managed to accrue some experience outside of its home region prior to this rather significant showing on the international level. So far this season, Plamakers Esports, and Braxstone before it, has participated in 2 mixed North and South American events in the form of the King’s Cup 2: North America and the joinDOTA League Season 14 America. The team’s results across those performances were solid but not particularly impressive, as the squad finished in the 5th place position in the former while ending up in the 8th-10th place position in the latter. Against teams outside of its own region, the team has put together a 7-5 overall record, though all of those opponents were from the North American region. While the team’s performance on the international level has not been particularly mind-blowing, its strength within the South American region is a bit more encouraging. The team has participated in 8 regional events and qualifiers (not including open qualifiers) so far this season, and has yet to finish any lower than 6th in any of them. Included among those performances are a pair of Top 4 finishes in the Kuala Lumpur Major and DreamLeague Season 10 Minor South America Qualifiers, another pair of Top 4 showings in the Liga Pro Gaming Season 4 and WESG Peru Qualifier, and its most recent 1st place finish in the qualifier for this Minor. While the team’s relative success at home doesn’t fully appear to make up for a lack of results on the international level, the hope is that momentum, talent, and experience can come together to fuel a successful run for Playmakers Esports on the Pro Circuit stage.
Playmakers Esports may have earned its Pro Circuit debut at The Bucharest Minor, but the squad will make its way to the Romanian capital with a somewhat different lineup compared to the one that the organization was founded with at the beginning of November. Recent roster changes almost always end up being a point of concern for a squad heading into a Pro Circuit event, and Playmakers Esports is certainly not considered to be an exception to that rule. The saving grace for the team heading into this event is that its performance within the South American region appears to only have improved since those roster changes were made. Since adding Faker to the lineup early in November, the squad’s overall record has been 16-11, and that record shifts to a more impressive 6-1 since adding Sword just a few weeks ago. Those results represent an encouraging start for the new-look Playmakers Esports, but the team still has quite a few questions to answer as it prepares for its Pro Circuit debut. The most glaring issue for this squad is the fact that Playmakers Esports has absolutely no experience together outside of the South American region. Some of the team’s individual players do have international experience on their resumes, but the squad in its current form has yet to play an official match against a non-South American opponent. Combining a lack of international experience with relatively recent changes to a lineup is never a great formula for success on the Pro Circuit, but it’s the situation that Playmakers Esports will have to work with as it makes its way to Bucharest. With so many factors appearing to play against the squad, Playmakers Esports comes into the Minor with a projection in the 7th-8th place range, and will most likely have to play the role of the underdog in its debut appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.
Qualification: CIS Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 18th (45 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
2. Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
3. Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
4. Alexander “Immersion” Hmelevskoy
5. Artsiom “fng” Barshack
C. Anatoly “boolk” Ivanov
Projected Finish: Top 4
Note: Since the original posting of this preview, Gambit Esports announced that Immersion and fng would be replacing KingR and VANSKOR in the lineup. That change is not reflected in the following section regarding the team.
Gambit Esports has burst onto the Dota 2 scene in this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign, as the squad has emerged as a contender within the CIS region and will be making its second appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor. The team formerly known as ferzee has been able to carve out a solid position for itself within its regional hierarchy, but with squads like NoPangolier, Na’Vi, and the two Team Empire lineups (Hope and Faith) potentially on the rise, Gambit Esports finds itself looking for some way to distance itself from those pursuing rivals. The Bucharest Minor presents a perfect opportunity for the team to find that edge, as a strong showing on the international level would go a long way towards creating that desired separation. While the field of teams for this Minor looks strong heading into the event, Gambit Esports’ prior experience on the Pro Circuit stage is a factor that can hopefully help fuel a successful run in Bucharest.
The Bucharest Minor will not be the first Pro Circuit event for Gambit Esports, as the CIS squad was last seen on the Pro Circuit stage at The Kuala Lumpur Major in November. The event did not go particularly well for the squad though, as Gambit Esports finished with a rather disappointing 13th-16th place finish in its Pro Circuit debut. Since then though, the team’s play on the international level has taken a significantly stronger turn, as Gambit Esports has put together a pair of solid performance in mixed Europe and CIS qualifiers. The squad finished 3rd in the MegaFon Winter Clash Closed Qualifier, and most recently earned itself a 1st place finish in the ESL One Katowice 2019 Europe Qualifier. In the time since its appearance at the previous Major, Gambit Esports holds a 6-2 record against teams outside of its home region, which does help to instill some degree of hope that its recent struggle on the international level was only a minor setback that it can recover from. The team’s performance on the home front would seem to encourage this hope, as Gambit Esports has put together a 21-16 record against its regional rivals since the conclusion of the Major. That record includes a 3rd place performance in The Chongqing Major CIS Qualifier, as well as a 1st place run in the qualifier for this upcoming Minor. With relatively recent examples of success on both the regional and international stage under its belt, Gambit Esports appears to be in a favorable position as it prepares for its second appearance of the season on the Pro Circuit stage.
Gambit Esports enters The Bucharest Minor as 1 of just 2 teams in the field to have made an appearance on the Pro Circuit so far this season, which puts the squad in a somewhat favorable position for this event. Granted, that prior Pro Circuit appearance did not particularly well for it, as Gambit Esports ended up at the bottom of the standings at The Kuala Lumpur Major with a 13th-16th place finish. However, the fact that Gambit Esports has some experience as a roster playing on the international level should serve as an advantage in a field of teams that is somewhat lacking in that regard. Adding onto that factor is the squad’s rather impressive stretch of recent results within its home region and the European region as well. 4 straight Top 4 finishes, including back to back 1st place qualifier runs, would certainly seem to imply that Gambit Esports is hitting its stride at a key moment in its Pro Circuit campaign. However, the fact that the team’s record across those 4 events is a somewhat even 21-16 still implies that the team has some weaknesses and inconsistencies that opponents could potentially take advantage of at the Minor. While the previously mentioned concerns will still exist for Gambit Esports in Bucharest, the fact that most of its opponents in the field have limited experience on the international level will hopefully make a poor result an unlikely scenario for the team. Barring any sort of significant setback for it, Gambit Esports appears to be a solid candidate for a Top 4 finish at The Bucharest Minor and a potential contender for the title of Minor Champion and the final slot at The Chongqing Major.
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
2. Rafli Fathur “Mikoto” Rahman
3. Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
4. Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
5. Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season has seen a series of steady improvements and steps forward for BOOM ID, as the Indonesian squad has earned itself its first ever appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor. The team is just over a month removed from a significant change to its roster, as Rafli Fathur “Mikoto” Rahman was added to the lineup in the wake of Dolly “SaintDeLucaz” Van Pelo’s departure. The change has only seemed to further improve the team’s level of play, as BOOM ID has continued to work its way up the regional hierarchy. Regional rivals like Fnatic, TNC Predator, and Tigers have dominated headlines within Southeast Asia so far, but BOOM ID has been quietly putting together a solid season and now has its opportunity to claim a position as one of the elite teams in the region with a solid showing at The Bucharest Minor.
BOOM ID will be making its Pro Circuit debut at The Bucharest Minor, but the event will not be the squad’s first experience on the international level this season. Back in October, the team was a participant in the PVP Esports Championship where it posted a 5-2 overall record to finish in the 5th-6th place position among a 9 team field. That performance in and of itself is not particularly impressive, but it at least means that BOOM ID will come into the Minor with some degree of experience outside of its home region. Speaking of that home region, BOOM ID’s results within the Southeast Asia itself are the pride of the squad so far this season. The team has participated in 12 total regional events and qualifiers, with 4 of those events being open qualifiers. Of those 4 open qualifiers, the team has racked up 3 Top 4 finishes, including 2 1st place runs that earned the squad spots in 2 of the previous Pro Circuit qualifiers. Across the team’s 8 non-open qualifier events within the Southeast Asian region, BOOM ID has been impressively consistent with 8 straight Top 4 finishes. Those Top 4 finishes include 1st place performances in the WESG Indonesia Online Qualifiers, the WESG Indonesia Finals, the Asia Pacific Predator League 2019 Indonesia Pro Qualifiers, the ESL Indonesia Championship Qualifier #1, and most recently the Southeast Asia Qualifier for this Bucharest Minor. That list of achievements looks fairly impressive at first glance, but upon closer inspection one might notice a particular trend developing for BOOM ID. That trend is the fact that 4 of its 5 1st place finishes have come in Indonesian events that have not necessarily included the other major squads within the Southeast Asian region. Of course, the team has still managed to put together Top 4 finishes even with the inclusion of the elite SEA squads, which significantly reduces the concerns surrounding the team heading into this Minor. Overall, BOOM ID’s lack of significant experience on the international stage represents a bit of an issue for it, but the success and consistency with which the squad has played within its home region has hopes high that the team can put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest.
BOOM ID comes into The Bucharest Minor as a team that appears to be steadily working its way up the regional hierarchy in Southeast Asia. With this first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, it appears that BOOM ID has finally found its opportunity to emerge as a potential leader within the Southeast Asian region and a competitor on the international level. The team has played with an impressive level of consistency so far this season, with its previously mentioned string of 8 straight Top 4 finishes in regional competitions standing out as a particularly strong example of its strength in Southeast Asia. The team’s performance at home is certainly a solid factor and an advantage for BOOM ID heading into this Minor, but the team will not come to Bucharest without its fair share of concerns as well. As previously mentioned, the squad has played a large portion of its official matches in Indonesian events, which slightly detracts from its impressive regional record this season. In fact, the team’s record against Pro Circuit qualified teams in Southeast Asia (i.e. Fnatic, TNC Predator, and Tigers) is a somewhat disappointing 2-5, which may be a cause for concern considering the strength of some of the team’s opponents in the field for this Minor. Even with that in mind, there is something to be said for a team that can manage to play with a consistent style and find success on a frequent basis, and BOOM ID has certainly managed to do that so far this season. While the team itself has extremely limited experience outside of its home region, that consistent play will hopefully be the edge that the squad needs to avoid finishing at the bottom of the event standings. As it stands now, BOOM ID is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range at The Bucharest Minor, but we will have to see something truly impressive from the squad at this event if the Indonesian squad is going to rise any higher than that predicted outcome.
Qualification: China Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
2. Zhai “一” Jingkai
3. Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
4. Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
5. Song “dark”‘ Runxi
C. Wu “Fyms” Junying
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
The story for Keen Gaming so far in this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign has been a rather difficult one, as the Chinese squad has had to deal with a plethora of obstacles and issues over the first few months of the season. The team entered the new season with a trio of new players, and before the end of September it found itself making another change to the roster as Huo “sss” Xiaole was officially replaced by Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong. Throughout the season so far, Keen Gaming and its various roster iterations have been startlingly inconsistent in terms of their overall performance. However, this first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in its 2018-2019 season may present Keen Gaming with the opportunity that it has been searching for to show its strength on one of the most prominent arenas in the Dota 2 world.
The Bucharest Minor will not only be Keen Gaming’s first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, it will also serve as the team’s first experience on the international level as a whole in this 2018-2019 campaign. The squad has not been able to step outside of its home region with its current roster, although its players at least have some previous experience on the international level on an individual basis. In addition to its lack of international experience, Keen Gaming’s record within the Chinese region has been fairly inconsistent so far. The team has participated in 8 open qualifiers within the Chinese region this season, and has managed to finish in the Top 4 in 6 of them with 3 1st place finishes. In terms of non-open qualifiers and events, Keen Gaming has made 10 appearances so far this season with 5 Top 4 finishes across those performances. The team’s successful runs have included 3rd place runs at both the Asian Dota2 League and H-Cup Season 10, as well as the 1st place finish in The Bucharest Minor China Qualifier that earned the squad its Pro Circuit debut. On the other hand though, the team has seen some struggles in its most recent performances, such as its 9th-10th place finish in the Dota2 Professional League Season 6 and a 7th-8th place run at the China Dota2 Winter Cup. The significant shifts in the team’s level of play and regional results introduces a point of concern for the squad, but there is some hope that Keen Gaming can turn things around before the start of the Minor itself. As of right now, the squad is still active in both The China Hope Series #2 and H-Cup Season 11, and is currently playing within the Playoffs of both events with guaranteed finishes in at least 6th in the standings. Strong finishes in one or both of those events just a few weeks before the start of the Minor would be a rather big confidence booster for the squad, but the question of the team’s inconsistent play will likely continue to be significant issue for it leading up to event itself.
Keen Gaming enters The Bucharest Minor as a squad that has been struggling to distinguish itself this season within a crowded Chinese region. This first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in its 2018-2019 campaign has the potential to serve as a launching pad to further the squad’s efforts both at home and on the international level, but Keen Gaming appears to have a formidable challenge ahead of it in the Romanian capital. The first and perhaps most glaring issue for the squad as it prepares for its season debut on the Pro Circuit is the fact that Keen Gaming does not have any official matches logged this season on the international level. The good news for the squad is that its lineup does have international experience on the individual level, as the team’s roster combines for an incredible 30 Major appearances, 14 Minor appearances, and 7 TI runs. That experience is certainly a valuable asset for the team, but now matter how much prior experience a team has, it needs to be capable of playing at a high and consistent level in order to find success on the Pro Circuit stage. On that front, Keen Gaming comes up lacking to a certain degree, as its performance within the Chinese region has been wildly inconsistent so far this season. At this stage in its Pro Circuit campaign, it’s simply too hard to tell which version of this Keen Gaming squad is going to show up in Bucharest. If the team comes into this Minor playing at its best, its strength and experience make it a formidable threat to any of the other squads in the field. However, anything other than its “A game” for Keen Gaming is going to result in quite a few problems for the squad on the Pro Circuit stage. Faced with that level of inconsistency and uncertainty, Keen Gaming has to drop down to the bottom of the projections, as the Chinese squad is predicted to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the Minor. We will have to wait and see if the team can get itself back on track and surprise us all with a strong performance as an underdog in the field in Bucharest.
Qualification: China Qualifier 2nd Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Luo “eGo” Bin
2. Li “ASD” Zhiwen
3. Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
4. Jiang “天命” An
5. Zhang “y`” Yiping
C. Zhang “xiao8” Ning
Projected Finish: Top 4
The EHOME organization came into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season with a need to reinvent itself after a somewhat dramatic shift in the offseason period. The team’s leader and 3 of its players left the EHOME roster to form DeathBringer Gaming, forcing it to undergo a near complete rebuild of its lineup in September. In response, EHOME brought in Luo “eGo” Bin and Li “ASD” Zhiwen on loan from CDEC Gaming, along with Jiang “天命” An on loan from Keen Gaming. While none of those additions where considered to be big names that would garner the squad any increased level of attention, the new-look EHOME has been looking fairly impressive within the Chinese region so far this season. With the team seemingly on the rise within its home region, it would appear that the next logical step in the progression of the new EHOME lineup would be a similar emergence on the international level. With this appearance at The Bucharest Minor, EHOME has a prime opportunity to make that breakthrough on the international level, but it will need to put together a strong showing against a field of formidable opponents on the Pro Circuit stage first.
EHOME will be making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, but the Chinese squad has been far from idle across the first few months of the 2018-2019 campaign. Within its home region, the squad has participated in 4 open qualifiers (3 Pro Circuit, 1 third party) and has won 2 of them. Across closed qualifiers and other Chinese regional events, EHOME has been even more impressive with 11 appearances so far this season. Those 11 appearances have resulted in 8 Top 4 finishes for the squad, including a trio of 1st place showings at the STARLUCK DOTA2 Challenge, the WESG 2018 China Final, and the recent ESL One Katowice 2019 China Qualifier. At the time of writing this preview, the squad is also still active in the Playoffs of the Dota2 Professional League Season 6, and is set to compete in the 2018 Sanya DOTA2 New-Stars Play as well. As a whole, EHOME has posted a very impressive 79-45 record against its fellow Chinese squads, which has set it up as a rising potential contender within the region. On top of its strong performance so far on the home front, EHOME has already found itself a bit of success on the international level as it heads into its Pro Circuit debut. The team was a participant in the mixed Southeast Asian and Chinese Asia Pro League in October, where EHOME claimed a 1st place finish overall and notably took down TNC Predator 3-0 in the Grand Finals of the event. Of course, China and Southeast Asia are not representative of the entire international scene, and the EHOME lineup in its current form has no official experience together against Western teams. However, its strong performance at home and its brief bit of success outside of the Chinese region has hopes relatively high for this squad as it prepares to make its season debut on the Pro Circuit in Bucharest.
EHOME makes its way to Bucharest for its season debut on the Pro Circuit as a squad that appears to be on the rise within the Chinese region. The squad has been putting together a strong start to its Pro Circuit campaign, and this opportunity to play in The Bucharest Minor could be that all-important, high profile performance that launches the squad into a position as a contender among its regional rivals and an emerging force on the international level as well. The team’s roster has an impressive mix of young talent and veteran leadership, as the skill of relative newcomers eGo and ASD has been tempered and channeled by a pair of TI Winners in Faith_bian and y`. That mixture has served EHOME well on the home front so far this season, as the team’s previously mentioned 79-45 record against its regional rivals shows. That record, and the squad’s results as a whole this season, also show off the relative consistency with which EHOME has been playing in its 2018-2019 campaign. The squad has suffered very few setbacks or deviations in terms of its level of play, with its worst finish in a non-open qualifier event being a 9th-11th place finish in the recent H-Cup Season 11 that only occurred because the team withdrew from the competition entirely. Of course, the Chinese squad will not come into this event without a few points of concern as well, as no team is ever perfect in the Dota 2 world. The squad’s experience outside of the Chinese region is somewhat limited heading into this Minor, as the team has only participated in a single mixed Chinese and Southeast Asian event prior to its appearance at The Bucharest Minor. However, even that issue is a relatively small one for the team, and its appearance in that lone mixed-region event saw the squad claim a 1st place finish with a 3-0 sweep of another Pro Circuit squad in TNC Predator. Between its consistent play, strong results at home, and lone victory outside of the Chinese region, EHOME appears to be one of the stronger teams in the field for this Minor. As such, the Chinese team is projected to finish inside of the Top 4 range at the event, and should be considered a legitimate candidate to vie for the title of Minor Champion in Bucharest.